Cinequest 2017: A wrap-up

Here we are, on the final day of the two-week Cinequest Film Fesitval, and I still have yet to write up anything about the festival itself. So, if you’ll allow the indulgence, here is one person’s view of their first film festival in almost eight years, the things I enjoyed, the things I didn’t and the things I didn’t quite get to cover due to other commitments.

Attending a film festival as a member of the press can be invigorating and frustrating even under the best of circumstances. But those highs and lows are compounded when your time is limited, and when some venues for the festival are separated by 25 miles of some of the most trafficked Interstate highway in the nation from each other. But despite the limited timeframe I was able to commit to, finding two films from first-time feature directors to be a passionate supporter of makes those hindrances worthwhile.


What I Was Able to See

Destiny: The first of two Chinese dramas I caught here. Interesting if only to see how autism is discussed and dealt with in other societies. I prefer my Chinese melodramas to be more periodic in nature, like “Raise the Red Lantern” or “Farewell, My Concubine.”

A Different Sun: It’d be little more than a 1980s ABC Afterschool Special, if it weren’t a Chinese movie shot in Germany and mostly spoken in English. Perhaps unintentionally funnier than it should be, due to the differences in tort laws between the United States and Germany. (Who knew the Krauts were even more litigious than Americans?)

Forgotten Man: A joyful, black and white visit to parts of London with marginalized people not regularly visited on screen, featuring strong lead performances by Obi Abili and Eleanor McLoughlin, and the return of 80s icon Jerry Hall!

: Sullen, angry, lost, scared young woman is pissed off at the world.

Prom King, 2010: Ah, to be young and gay and fabulous in New York City! Ah, to be young and a great storyteller and charismatic! I hate Chris Schaap! No, I don’t. He’s simply too extraordinary to hate. And now, his film is the winner of the 2017 Cinequest Film Festival New Vision Award!

The Zookeeper’s Wife: The closing night film. Embargoed until March 20th. Sorry. [Review coming soon]


What I Wanted to See

Actors Anonymous: 12 directors and eight writers take on an adaptation of a James Franco novel, featuring James Franco, about actors and their obsessions. May be too meta for most. May be too meta for me.
The Assignment: Walter Hill directs a transgendered revenge action flick? Holy shit! That sounds AWESOME! And wait… it’s got Sigourney Weaver too? Take my money now! I’ll get to watch next week.

The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger: A mild mannered IT specialist and husband finds himself confronted in what can only be called a double-doppelganger situation, when he goes searching for another man with the same unusual name as his own when the second man goes missing in the same town.

Imitation Girl: A mysterious woman lands in the Southwest and assumes the identity of the first person she sees: a woman on a magazine cover, a porn star trying to find herself amid her own self destruction. I’ll be watching this in the next day or two and should have a review up soon.

Laura Gets a Cat: The harder a would-be novelist in Hollywood works to “be herself,” the less satisfying her life becomes. What can I say, I love movies about Hollywood, even when they’re not really about “Hollywood.”


Lovesick: Attempting to win back the love of his life, who is now engaged to another man, a thirtysomething mural artist living paycheck to paycheck goes in for psychotherapy. It’s Canadian, and it has Jessica Pare and Jay Baruchel. Bonus points!


New Chefs on the Block: Documents the lives of two chefs looking to open their own restaurants.

Pyromaniac: A Norwegian village works to identify an arsonist who goes on a wrecking spree of starting a series of fires around town. Directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, who wrote and directed the original Insomnia. You know, the good one.

Revenge: Another Norwegian entry. What more do you need than the tagline “She doesn’t want to simply kill him – she wants him to suffer”? How about an almost-all female cast and crew, and the promise of a fascinating psychological thriller with a fierce, enigmatic heroine delivering a satisfying dish served very, very cold?

Shut Up Anthony: Why won’t he just shut up? I know my wife and co-workers often feel the same. A neurotic creative grinding out a living at a Portland ad firm, he loses his girlfriend, job, and dignity over the course of a few days. With nothing else to do, Anthony flees to his family’s timeshare where he encounters Tim, an estranged family friend who is also an alcoholic theology professor. The two are forced to share the space as they clash over relationships, religion, vodka, and coaster etiquette.

This Is Meg: Yet another Hollywood indie movie! A sneak peak into the Los Angeles lifestyle of a working but not famous female actress/comedienne’s point of view that is forced to shift with the social media wave, featuring actresses over the age of 35! How truly novel.

Train Driver’s Diary: The film I almost went to see instead of “Prom King, 2010,” a Serbian drama about a train driver who is haunted by the ghosts of some of those he has killed over the years. Apparently, every train driver inadvertently kills about 20 people over the course of their career. Even if it’s not 100% true, it’s a hell of a way to get a tragicomedy going.

Una: Rooney Mara (“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”) and Ben Mendelsohn (“Rogue One”) face off in a potent psychological thriller of unhealed wounds.


Now, I am certain there were many fine movies at Cinequest 2017 that were never going to capture my interest. If you want to see the full line-up of the films that played the festival, visit the Cinequest website.